Did agriculture get off easy?

Gov. Jerry Brown's historic order last week to curb California's water use largely bypasses agriculture, the state's biggest water user, setting off debate about whether growers are getting a pass.

Brown's plan focused on urban water use — such as lawns, golf courses and parks — which makes up less than 25 percent of Californians' overall water use.

For critics of Brown's plan, it's ineffective policy to crack down on watering yards while largely ignoring the vast, still-green expanses of the state's fruit and vegetable garden.

"The government's response to this growing crisis has been behind the curve," said Jonas Minton, water policy adviser for the Planning and Conservation League. He argued that state officials should clamp down on groundwater pumping and new crops.

Other water experts said that agriculture has already suffered as a result of the drought, now in its fourth year. For the second year in a row, many Central Valley farmers expect no deliveries from the federal irrigation project.

Growers who get supplies from the state water project will receive only 20 percent of requested deliveries this year. Farmers left more than 400,000 acres unplanted last year, dealing a $2 billion blow to the agricultural economy.

"The drought is not theoretical. It's going to manifest itself in ordinary Californians' lives for the first time. Well, our farmers have been feeling it for a while," said Chris Scheuring, a water attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation.

Los Angeles Times